Why Robertson Must Become a Back Up in Regeneration
I imagine there is a very slight and trusted group of players, certain individuals that support and reside within Jürgen Klopp’s circle of trust. I doubt Mamadou Sakho even saw the perimeter of such a circle, whereas others have probably lived there for years. We heard a few days ago how our manager had fought to keep James Milner at the club for one more year, though was overruled by his CEO, Mike Gordon. One opinion was built upon loyalty, whereas the other was all upon footballing success and regeneration. One man was correct, the other, not so much.
When Liverpool suddenly adapted to an on ball 3-box-3 formation against Arsenal (9 games ago), it was clearly the action of a coach searching for answers amidst a disappointing campaign. Certain sporting coaches have an identity and plan of attack that is bespoke to their ideals and thus instantly recognizable. Though Klopp arrived as a 4-2-3-1 manager, he soon made the slight alterations to integrate a 4-3-3 for Liverpool. The gegenpressing regime then began to take shape, with the much-needed components identified by our elite recruitment team and world class Sporting Director, Michael Edwards. Andy Robertson was one of those unbelievable additions, with his £7m capture from Hull City regarded as the shrewdest piece of business in the FSG era. Once he had ousted Alberto Moreno from the starting eleven, he went on to become a box-to-box fullback who would run the opposition into the ground. His assist hungry style of play ingrained perfectly within the system of play, becoming one of the clubs most important components. After the reds successfully beat their greatest rivals, Manchester United, 3-1 at Anfield in 2018, their manager, José Mourinho, made the following statements.
“Liverpool play 200mph with and without the ball,” Mourinho said in his post-match press conference.
“I am still tired to look at Robertson. He makes a 100m sprint per minute! Incredible.
What we see now, however, is a 55-year-old manager attempting to evolve his methods in line with the changing landscape of football. Many people could argue to warrants of changing what once worked, or whether the changes are indeed a necessary measure. I sit somewhere in between, as I believe the rewards of adjustment can create a beautifully crafted system, though only if the aggression and intensity remain. The most important aspect (in such a long-term shift), must be the selection and integration of players that can make this new strategy work. There are several players that will have to adapt their current game, whereas some are probably too old or simply ill-suited to what is required.
I’ve listed some of the first team players I believe will struggle to make the best of this formation.
I adore this charming Cameroonian. His persona and moments really do stand out, though as a central defender that will start next season as a 32-year-old, I don’t know how his body could cope with a long spell within this high line back three. If we were to reinforce either flanking central defensive spot with pace and power, another season as the Virgil back up is viable, though not ideal.
The target of this piece, yet a player I have had the pleasure of watching elevate to the top of the worlds left back rankings. He has just turned 29-year-old, so should be in the prime of his career. The issue is, how much energy and fight that has been emitted during his six years at Anfield and the fact we may rarely play with fullbacks next year.
Much like Robertson, his role could become undermined by the switch in formation. Eventually, teams will target the weakest point of any team, with an attacking left back operating as a left sided central defender being the prime target. Probably moved on this summer, for an incoming and specialist LCB.
Not able to get close to the physicality that his previous style of play required. Can only operate as a last 15 minutes (off the bench) option, or as a domestic and Europa group stage player.
I read on Wednesday morning how Real Madrid were weighing up a £40m move for Andy Robertson. This is a position they do require filling, especially with David Alaba now exclusively playing at centre back. Though I would take this link with a pinch of salt, I would absolutely entertain the notion if someone were willing to part with £50m (for Robbo’s signature) this summer. If you were to take nostalgia and loyalties out of the equation, there is now very little between Robbo and Kostas, especially as a designated left back. Though I would prefer the Scotsman to stay and assist in the adaptation of new assets, his role as a first team regular is looking very much at risk. A defensive back three can of course be navigated by a full back stepping in, however, we know full well that our German manager loves a giant and dominating centre half. We have been linked with a plethora of left footed defenders, all of which match up to somewhere between a Joe Gomez and Ibrahima Konaté, in terms of physicality. Though the writing is not completely on the wall for a man that has played 267 games as a red, there is the sense that he could be moved into a back-up role, in much the same way as Roberto Firmino was. Some honesty from his manager and awareness of the links to other players, could well force the Scotland skipper to make a decision in the coming weeks.
Though I would prefer him to become a rotating prince next season (before being moved on in 2024), many people are of the opinion that a surprise player could be sold in this coming window. It will be an interesting few months to see just how committed to a major regeneration Jürgen Klopp truly is, which could alter the Anfield career of Andrew Robertson dramatically.
🥇| Real Madrid have placed Andy Robertson on a list of potential summer signings. The defender would command a fee well in excess of £40m should he leave Liverpool. [@mcgowan_stephen] pic.twitter.com/plxXmhxbQy
— Anfield Edition (@AnfieldEdition) May 24, 2023